“You Need to Make Friends Before Moving to the UK” — Abroad Life

May 27, 2022

The Nigerian experience is physical, emotional and sometimes international. No one knows it better than our features on #TheAbroadLife, a series where we detail and explore Nigerian experiences while living abroad.

Today’s subject on Abroad Life moved to the UK because the company he works for transferred him there. He talks about Nigerians in the UK being wary of new Nigerians coming in because of their tendency to grow overdependent.

When did you decide to move abroad?

The company I work for transferred me here. I was a freelance cinematographer until 2020 when I got a full-time job as a video editor. By late 2021, I’d been promoted to head of media, and the company was opening a branch in the UK, so they asked me to go because I had travelling history. 

What travelling history?

When I was a freelancer, my major work was with a popular musician. I travelled with them wherever they went. Sometimes, it was the UK. Other times, the US. In fact, I was in the US with them the entire year of 2019. 

What did it feel like dropping everything and moving to the UK?

Because of my type of work, I was hardly ever at home. My parents were already used to me not being around. Also, I don’t have a lot of friends, so there wasn’t a lot to drop. I just told all the people I thought would care, and we hung out shortly before I left early this year (2022). 

Expectation vs reality: the UK edition.

Because I would always come to the UK with one musician or the other, everything was usually paid for. Omo, I didn’t expect that things would be this expensive o. Here, nobody is your friend except you have money. You can’t smile, beg or haggle to get bargains or discounts. The UK is bloody expensive. I had to stay in a hotel for a month before I found an apartment, and for that entire month, the bill was ₦1m. 


It’s also complicated to get an apartment. Here, you have to prove you can pay for the apartment with a six-month account statement, and many homeowners want to see that you’ve worked in the UK for those six months. In my case, I had to prove that my company, which was just setting up in the UK, was legitimate. I needed an account statement, and I needed a guarantor. 

So I guess it was difficult to settle in? 

The cold will mess with you. The weather is getting warmer now, so I can open my windows and put on my fan, but when I first got here, the cold dealt with me. Another thing I found complex was the train system. When you’re new in London, you have to study the train schedules and routes, and ask questions. I once stopped at the same wrong place five times in a row in a single day because I didn’t understand what I was doing. 

Nigerian food is like gold here. I once bought a tiny pack of rice and beans for the naira equivalent of ₦10k. 

Should I cancel my plans to come to London?

LMAO, no. The best way to settle well in London is to make friends before you come here. But as you make friends, don’t make it seem like you’re coming here to depend on them. They’ll ghost you. Nigerians in the UK hate it when people come and become entirely dependent on them because you assume they’re comfortable. When you get here, invite people for drinks and offer to pay or split the bills, don’t stay too long at people’s houses, etc. 

I’ve heard stories of people getting to the airport in the UK and their contacts don’t pick their calls, or they block them. People do that because some Nigerians come here and become liabilities. Housing someone for one week turns to two months, and they’re eating your food and not working because they don’t need to contribute anything. 

Do you have any personal experiences? 

When my hotel stay was about to expire, and I was finalising my apartment papers, I called a co-worker who already stayed in London to ask if I could keep my bag at his apartment while I ran around and sorted things out. He was extremely hesitant. He even asked me to send pictures of the bag to see what it looked like. That’s when I began to understand the dynamics between Nigerians who stay in the UK and Nigerians who’ve freshly arrived. It’s cautious. 

Getting jobs is difficult. Work experience in Nigeria hardly cuts it for UK employers. Rent is expensive. So when Nigerians eventually get comfortable here, they just want to pay rent, buy groceries, fund their transportation cards, and save the rest. Before I got here, I thought Nigerians in the UK went out often and spent a lot of money. Nope. Even when they come to Nigeria for detty December and look like they’re balling, it’s because they’ve been saving for the entire year. 

What about the people from the UK?

They’re polite. They say sorry, please, and excuse me a lot. But don’t take it to mean they like you. It’s just how they are. 

Do you see yourself staying there for long?

I’m enjoying my job because it’s giving me more responsibilities, helping me sharpen my skills and I still have time to work on personal projects. I see myself staying at the company for at least three more years, and that means I’ll be in the UK for at least three more years. 

What’s your favourite part of living there?

The weather, the variety of food, all the new people I meet, the blazing fast internet and the fact that I have access to more streaming platforms. 

And your least favourite part?

It’s boring and can get lonely. Also, I’ve been hearing news of stabbings, so whenever I go out, I’m wondering, “Am I next?”

Hey there! My name is David and I’m the writer of Abroad Life. If you’re a Nigerian and you live or have lived abroad, I would love to talk to you about what that experience feels like and feature you on Abroad Life. All you need to do is fill out this short form, and I’ll be in contact.

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